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Embracing the art of innovation: The return of Sasol New Signatures

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, our lives have changed immeasurably. Now, more than ever, we are being called upon to seek out more innovative ways of navigating the world and our places in it. The arts industry has not been immune to this reality and, perhaps more so than other industries, it has had to seek out original and creative ways to adapt to this new mode of living. Forging new ways ahead, and harnessing the endless possibilities of the arts, the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition has emerged from a one-year hiatus to once again champion the South African arts, and celebrate the art of innovation.

Back in 2019, Pfunzo Sidogi was appointed the National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures at the Winners’ Announcement event hosted at the Pretoria Art Museum. With the competition having been cancelled in 2020, he was unable to take over the reins until now. As he begins the exciting and challenging journey of launching Sasol New Signatures 2021, Sidogi now says he’s ready to bring back one of the most important platforms for the arts in South Africa.

Pfunzo Sidogi chairperson Sasol New Signatures
Pfunzo Sidogi, National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures

‘The one-year hiatus of the competition was unfortunate but sadly unavoidable. Its absence underscored the value of the competition as a platform and space for emerging artists to advance their creativity. Art competitions like the Sasol New Signatures are critical enablers for not only incentivising emerging artists, but also for giving these artists access to the mainstream art market. Based on past experiences, we have seen how artists who participate in this competition go on to exhibit and promote their artworks at other prominent industry showcases like local, and at times international, art fairs and mega-exhibitions/biennales.’

Pfunzo Sidogi, National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures

A brief history of the Sasol New Signatures Art Competition

The New Signatures competition was formally established in 1961 by the then South African Association of the Arts Northern Transvaal (now Association of Arts Pretoria since 1997). From its inception, the competition sought to provide an exhibition platform for emerging artists to showcase their talents. Although it initially began as a provincial event, the competition grew to become the premier national competition for emerging artists, with support from partners such as Stuttaford Van Lines, whose sponsorship of the competition reaches back to 1998.

  • Sasol New Signatures 2021
  • Sasol New Signatures 2021

Crucially, it was in 1990 that Sasol financed and inserted its name into the competition for the first time, thus beginning a three-decade-long partnership, and ensuring the sustained presence and significance of a platform like the Sasol New Signatures competition.

‘Sponsorship of the visual arts is sadly rare, and more worrisome, on the decline. I am therefore extremely excited about the resumption of the Sasol New Signatures in 2021. The commitment shown by Sasol in continuing to sponsor this important art competition is praiseworthy. Sasol, like many individuals and businesses in South Africa, went through challenging storms due to Covid-19. It is therefore a testament to the company’s own resilience and ability to innovate that the competition is going ahead in 2021.’

Pfunzo Sidogi, National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures

Embracing the art of innovation   

The absence of the Sasol New Signatures in 2020 was felt across the industry. A highlight on the annual creative calendar for artists and art-lovers alike, the postponement of the competition, as well as the postponement of the anticipated solo exhibition by 2019 winner Patrick Rulore, was yet another casualty of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, however, Sidogi and the Sasol New Signatures team are back and ready to receive entries from talented artists across the country, all under the 2021 theme of ‘The Art of Innovation’. 

Sasol New Signatures winner
Patrick Rulore, Winner 2019

Sidogi explains that while the 2020 hiatus was a great loss for the arts, he is hopeful that this year’s entries will reflect a renewed vigour and enthusiasm amongst its participating artists.

‘Obviously, we expect that artists will produce artworks that respond to the unprecedented times we are living through. However, one can never predict what kind of self-expression and creativity will emerge from the artists. I expect to be amazed and challenged by the diverse artistic harvest that will emerge from around the country.’

Pfunzo Sidogi, National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures

He also stresses that while innovation is at the heart of what artists do, the competition’s 2021 theme is not a call for artists to make artworks about or related to innovation, exclusively. ‘The Sasol New Signatures has embraced the notion of innovation as a celebration of the amazing creative feats artists achieve, especially under moments of great duress, such as we have experienced recently. Therefore, we are hoping to see artworks that will continue to inspire, heal, and transform our society,’ says Sidogi.

Making entries accessible

Sasol New Signatures has made a number of educational resources available to artists hoping to enter this year’s competition. In addition to their comprehensive website, there are also virtual information sessions that outline all of the necessary requirements and procedures for entry. 

Sasol New Signatures virtual information session

‘Due to the generous sponsorship from Sasol and logistical support from Stuttaford Van Lines, it literally does not cost anything to enter this competition. Also, the team from Sasol and the Association of Arts Pretoria responsible for organising the competition have the best interests of the artists at heart, so everyone who is eligible should definitely enter the competition.’

Pfunzo Sidogi, National Chairperson for Sasol New Signatures

Sasol New Signatures is open to all South African artists who are 18+ years and have not yet held a solo exhibition. Artists who have held a solo exhibition for academic purposes, i.e. a Master’s degree exhibition, are allowed to enter. Artists are able to submit artworks in all artistic mediums including photography, performance art, video, and installations.

Enter the 2021 Sasol New Signatures Art Competition at one of several collection points across the country on Tuesday, 7 September and Wednesday, 8 September 2021 from 10:00 to 16:00.

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